Disabled employee at work

Leonard Cheshire has warned that unemployment among disabled people could rise sharply this autumn and winter, however, suggests a jobs crisis can be prevented if the government introduces several targeted interventions in the upcoming spending review.

The national charity for disabled people says it has answered chancellor Rishi Sunak’s call for creative thinking by proposing the introduction of ‘Purple Passports’, as well as a targeted extension to the furlough to avoid a winter jobs crisis for disabled people.

The suggestion comes ahead of the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review, which will set UK Government departments’ resource budgets for the next years four years, as well as capital budgets for the next five.

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As part of the process, interest groups, individuals and representative bodies can submit a written representation to HM Treasury before 24 September to comment on government policy or suggest new policies to include in Comprehensive Spending Review 2020.

In the charity’s specific ‘Plan for Jobs’ for disabled people, Leonard Cheshire recommends:

  • Funding new ‘Purple Passport’ documents for disabled people, outlining the support they need in the workplace. The ‘Purple Passport’ scheme would bring the UK into line with countries like Canada
  • Extending the furlough scheme for working people who are shielding to help them retain their jobs
  • Giving all employees entitlement to Statutory Sick Pay and flexible working on day one of employment
  • Employers reporting on the numbers of disabled people they employ and for large employers to report on the disability pay gap
  • Abolishing the five-week wait between claiming Universal Credit (UC) and receiving payments while topping up the Employment Support and Disability Support Allowances to deal with COVID-19 related hardship

The plan has been submitted alongside the campaigning work Leonard Cheshire is currently engaged in, encouraging the government to ensure disabled people are put at the heart of the UK’s economic recovery.

“For disabled people the squeeze on jobs is not a distant prospect on the horizon, it’s already here,” said Gemma Hope, Director of Policy at Leonard Cheshire

“Employment advisors at our charity have reported a rapid spike in competition for jobs, leading employers to hike requirements for even entry-level positions. This will make the jobs market extremely challenging for someone without a conventional CV.”

Pointing to the continuation of its disabled student internship programme, Change 100, during the pandemic, the charity says the fact many disabled interns successfully completed their placements reinforces that employers can adapt workplaces and work to avoid freezing out disabled jobseekers.

“As in most downturns, disabled people risk being among the hardest hit. But the government can shift the narrative with the same bold approach as it took early in the pandemic, with novel measures to deal with our ‘new normal’,” continued Gemma.

“This need not be a winter of discontent for disabled people, if the government takes the right actions to protect livelihoods.”

Leonard Cheshire is also calling for the government to create a ‘disability inclusive industrial strategy’ to ensure that disabled people benefit from economic growth, noting that 2017’s Industrial Strategy did not outline how disabled people would be included in future growth.

What are ‘Purple Passports’?

Also known as adjustment passports, purple passports are a record which identifies the reasonable adjustments, modifications, and equipment a disabled person has received in education and work. In the UK, when a disabled person moves from education to work, they lose access to support from education providers and need to apply to Access to Work to gain access to equipment or support. Similarly, when a disabled person changes jobs, they need to reapply to Access to Work for support. An adjustment passport outlines the support an individual requires to help speed up this process.

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